1st wreckage removed from Demerara River under $787.6M project

This steel plate weighs 17.5 tonnes. It was dropped into the river to break the wreckage into small sections

One of three wreckages which were earmarked to be removed from the Demerara River under a $787.6M project has been completed, Public Works Minister Juan Edghill has announced.

“One of the things we have ventured off to do in 2021 and is a success story in 2021 is the removal of wrecks in our channel to come into Demerara. We have been successfully able to remove the first wreck and work is ongoing, because that contract is a multiyear contract, and is for the removal for three. And then we have to do more,” Edghill explained during a press conference on Monday.

Late last year, Dutch maritime solutions provider, Koole Contractors was hired by the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD) to remove three separate wreckages from the Demerara River.

The contract was signed following unsuccessful attempts in the past to remove those wreckages which hinder the smooth flow of vessels in the river.

Marc Rooijakkers, Koole’s project manager had explained to the media that the first undersea wreckage was a barge and the process of removing it involves using Koole’s custom-built machinery to cut up the barge, then remove it from the sea bit by bit.

“It is a barge, about 50 by 12.5 metres, and we’re going to remove this wreck with the chisel method,” Rooijakkers said.

“The chisel method is a method that we developed ourselves, with Koole Contractors. It’s basically a 17.5-tonne steel plate which we lift 22 metres high and then we let it fall with a free fall.”

“As soon as the wreck is hit into small sections with the steel plate, we will connect the grapple, and with the grapple, we will lift out the several wreck sections. Depending on the state of the wreck, the grapple can also break the wreck into sections. As soon as we have a firm grip on the wreck, then we can lift the wreck on board the vessel into small sections, and escort them on board the barge.”

At the time, he said Koole does not know for sure how long it will take to remove all three wreckages but the company is working with a rough estimate of two to three months.

Meanwhile, Edghill indicated that this project is critical especially as MARAD is already seeing an influx in vessels operating locally due to the oil boom.

“The Maritime Administration has taken on new meaning for Guyana especially in the context of oil and gas and I want to say when you had five and ten ships, safety was always a consideration but when you have hundreds of ships, safety becomes a greater consideration,” he explained.

In 2021, MARAD was successful in inspecting and certifying 896 vessels. Additionally, the organisation has established a special unit to deal with the oil and gas sector.

With regards to the Transport and Harbour Department (T&HD), Edghill explained that the agency has received over $1B in revenues last year – a significant turnaround in its performance.

General Manager of the Department Marclene Merchant, during the press conference, explained that “the cause of the increase in revenue is due to the increase in traffic and because of the increase in traffic, we had to include the additional trip which makes it four schedule trips per day, so in addition to the four scheduled trips that we have per day whenever there is a demand in the traffic, we usually make about six or seven trips per day.”

Edghill added that the Department is doing well in managing its liabilities. “When we came to office, the Transport and Harbours Department was an area for great concern. They weren’t paying the contributions of NIS and PAYE for staff, and liabilities were huge, hundreds of millions of dollars in liabilities in the Transport and Harbours Department,” he contended.

“We have been able to see a turn in the tide at the Transport and Harbours Department,” he expressed.

“We’re happy that we’ve been able to improve efficiency, we have been able to control loss of fuel, we’ve been able to manage things tightly control operations.”